Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book
Don’t know much about the French I took.
But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me too
What a wonderful world this would be.
I have several reasons for liking the song but chief among them is that it is a great illustration of the power of an “if…then…” statement. I remember sitting a high school geometry class moaning over not being able to fully grasp the concept of theorems. But I remember the teacher illustrating the concept of if…then in geometry. A if…then statement in math is known as a conditional statement.
Mathematicians and scientists like conditional statements because they can link two events into a relational understanding. If “A” happens then “B” will follow. Conditional statements are important because they are reliable predictors. Sam Cooke in his song declares the surety of his love and then says “I know that if you love me too, then what a wonderful world it would be. Mr. Nelson, my geometry teacher, finally helped me understand a math concept. I saw the if…then conditional statement in a way I could understand.
No doubt you are wondering what this has to do with Lent and being prepared for Resurrection Sunday. There is an important “if…then” statement in 1 Corinthians 15:17: And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Why does the Apostle Paul make this statement? He makes it to address the belief that was emerging in the Corinthian church that belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus was not a big deal. Understand, that the Corinthians were not against the concept of resurrection, per se. They were questioning that a dead body could come back from the dead. The soul could rise from a dead body, and many were thinking that was all that was really needed. They were thinking that the body was the problem. Get rid of the body and you get rid of sin. The physical was the problem, and a spiritual resurrection was the cure.
To that way of thinking Paul addresses his if…then statement. If Christ has not been raised (then) your faith is futile. Why is it futile? Paul continues: (because) you are still in your sins. Our life experience instructs us of the importance of escaping sin. Sin gets us into trouble with people close to us. Sin gets us in trouble with the larger world of community and culture. Sin complicates our lives. The Corinthians knew that being rid of sin was important. You know this as well. We have looked at 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 that declares that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures. Makes sense, doesn’t it. Sin is bad. Sin complicates life and relationships. Let’s get rid of sin. We know that is why Jesus came into the world. John the Baptist said as much in John 1:29, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
But here is Paul saying, that if Christ is not raised from the dead and he means if Christ did not raise physically, then our faith in the idea that are sins are taken away is futile (pointless, fruitless, ineffective, or wasted). Why is this the case? Because we are still in our sins.
Here is why, in our journey toward Easter, it is important to look back on where we have been in our journey and what we have learned. Week 1 we looked at 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 where Paul says, “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word, I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” In the last two posts we looked at 1 Corinthians 15:3-4: For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures… In those post we examined the idea that Jesus died, was buried, and rose on the third day as an idea of “first importance.” We said it was of first importance because it is more than a historical statement. Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection goes beyond just interesting historical facts. They are things that happened according to scripture, making them of first importance. Next, we examined the idea that these events, death, burial, and resurrection are physical and why that is important.
Now, Paul says if Christ did not rise physically then our faith in the statement of first importance is mush. Mush cannot support you in the complexities created by sin. Mush cannot provide hope that the problems created by sin will be alleviated. Mush cannot deliver on the idea that one day we will inhabit a new earth, in new bodies that are free from the curse and consequences of sin. In your meditation consider how important it is to you that your sins have been forgiven and that God has removed the guilt and consequences of those sins.
If that is important to you, that you are no longer chained by your sins, then consider carefully how important it is that Jesus Christ physically rose from death and the grave. We will explore this idea further next week. It is indeed an idea of first importance, and we want a faith that is more than mush.
Father, help us to grasp in confidence that our sins have been taken away. Help us to see that if Jesus has been raised physically from the grave, then we are full of hope and joy. Father, help us understand and appreciate what you the death, burial, and resurrection has accomplished. Amen